Northern Ireland

Antrim bin collections could become fully privatised

bin lorry
Image caption Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough could become the first NI council with a fully-privatised bin collection

Residents in parts of Antrim have said they are angry about proposed changes to bin collections that would see the service outsourced to a private firm.

If the plan is approved, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough would become the first council area in NI with a fully-privatised waste collection service.

A majority of councillors voted in favour of the changes in June, subject to public consultation.

Blue recycling bins would be replaced with with stackable wheelie boxes.

Image caption The stacking bins are already in use in the Newtownabbey part of the borough

The current 240-litre black bin would be replaced by a smaller 180-litre version, bringing collections in the Antrim area into line with the Newtownabbey part of the borough.

Antrim and Newtownabbey councils were amalgamated to form a joint authority under the 2015 local government reforms.

Image caption David Burke says older people will find the new bins difficult to cope with

David Burke, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, said many residents were not aware of the proposed changes.

"People need to know, is this going to be easier for me to recycle or is it going be more difficult?" he said.

"The older people are going to find it difficult, people who are disabled, people who have got arthritis and things.

"They are very worried that they won't be able to lift the tri-box things.

"The standard we have with our bin men is excellent and I just hope the same system will work if they do change."

Image caption The familiar blue recycling bins could disappear from the streets of Antrim

Amanda Smillie, who lives in the Greystone Road area of the town, said she was willing to try the new system.

"I am not the best at knowing what to put into which bins, so maybe this system because it's three different boxes really, it might help people like myself be better at the recycling," she said.

The council said the plan would allow it to offer voluntary redundancy to more than 20 employees who have applied.

Natalie Shiel, from the trade union Nipsa, which is opposed to the outsourcing, has challenged the council's claim that the proposals would save £6m over 10 years.

"Councils in the UK and in the south of Ireland are currently bringing a lot of their services back into council control and this is mainly because privatisation of such services has proven to be not as financially viable as once predicted," she said.

Image caption Councillor Billy Webb said the new stacking bins would allow a wider range of items to be recycled

Alliance councillor Billy Webb, who attended a public meeting on the issue, said the new recycling system would be able to take additional items that the current blue bin does not.

"I listened to what was being said and there were some genuine points being made, points that we can address in council when we get the results of the consultation exercise back.

"The bottom line is we are replacing a blue bin with a triple stack, but in doing that we are able to increase the items that they can recycle, i.e. glass, batteries, textiles and give a better service because it will be a weekly collection."

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